Norfolk Southern determines broken rail caused Station Square derailment in August |
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Bob Bauder
Crews working to remove Norfolk Southern freight cars that derailed August 5, 2018, from a track near Station Square.

A freight train that tumbled over tracks at Station Square in August, barely missing a Port Authority of Allegheny County light rail station and disrupting T service from the station for weeks, was caused by a broken rail, Norfolk Southern has determined.

The company issued a report to the Federal Railroad Administration that determined the cause was a broken rail and estimated the Aug. 5 mishap caused the railroad about $853,000 in damages to equipment and track.

The organization is still investigating the incident, FRA spokeswoman Desiree French said, and will issue a separate report in the future.

“The railroad was required to submit an accident report to FRA,” she said in an email. “FRA’s investigation of the Station Square derailment … is ongoing.”

Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband said the company doesn’t know how the rail damage occurred. He said the company is required to inspect main line tracks twice weekly and inspected the track in question just before the train derailed.

“We don’t know when the defect occurred,” Husband said. “We have a very robust track inspection program. We inspect our track on a very regular basis because derailments are bad for business.”

Seven freight cars loaded with household products and appliances tumbled off tracks above the Station Square stop, damaging about 1,000 feet of railroad track, 1,600 feet of light rail track and 4,000 feet of power lines.

Port Authority spokesman Adam Brandolph declined to comment on the report, but said the derailment caused significant damages and the agency is still calculating the total. Brandolph said the Port Authority intends to bill Norfolk Southern.

“We anticipate submitting a package tallying those costs to them by the end of the year,” he said. “We had significant costs both internally and costs that we shopped out, contractors that we paid for, things like that.”

Falling debris just missed the light rail station and the Port Authority credited fare taker Princess Ferguson with quickly directing several passengers to evacuate.

It took weeks for the Port Authority to replace the track and electric lines, rebuild a portion of a concrete retaining wall near the T stop and reinstall a power line support structure. The derailment clogged freight routes along the Norfolk Southern system between the East Coast and Chicago and caused significant delays for T passengers.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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